Eating Occasions

September 29, 2009

Have you ever bought something, say a box of cookies or a pair of shoes, and never used/eaten/worn it? I know it’s happened to me and I always wonder why I do it!

Last week I read an article, “Distinctions between Shopping and Use Occasions” by the Hartman Group, a group that conducts consumer research to understand how consumer’s attitudes and behaviors lead to purchases. Within the article several good points were made, including:

  • Items bought don’t change from the time we buy them to the time we use them. What changes is our desire for them and our need for their use.
  • Most marketing is done to target a consumer, rather than an occasion. For example, a mom with kids is a type of consumer that is targeted, rather than targeting the occasion of running late in the morning.

How does the Hartman research apply to food intake and nutrition? One of my recommendations to clients is to avoid shopping when hungry, which relates to the first point above. If you go to the supermarket before you have eaten, you are more likely to fill your basket or cart with food items that you wouldn’t necessarily buy if you went shopping on a full stomach. Those cookies or chips didn’t change from the time you were in the store to the time you went to open them after lunch or dinner. What changed is your hunger and desire for them.

As for the second point, the occasion of running late in the morning may be one that often affects moms with kids, but it is also an occasion that affects other consumer groups. When I advise my clients what to eat for breakfast if they are running out the door, the foods I recommend are based on my clients’ personal preferences, but they are often similar types of foods. The occasion, not necessarily the consumer, is what leads to the recommendation.

Do you eat specific foods for different occasions?

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